Wednesday, 29 September 2021

ZITHER! by Jeffrey Hanlon

Join Us for This Tour from  September 27 to October 15

Book Details:
Book TitleZITHER! by Jeffrey Hanlon
Category:  Adult Fiction 18+, 350 pages
GenreMystery, Humor
Publisher:  Zither Studios
Release Date: April 20, 2021

Content Rating:  G.

"A zany rollicking mystery adventure as compelling as it is hilarious." ~ Independent Book Review

"Hanlon’s humor shines bright and will leave fans of such madness wanting more." ~ Publisher's Weekly
Nominated for the prestigious Audie Award, Best Fiction 2021
Book Description:

A nutty religious cult rustles a herd of prime gazebos (huh??) and it’s up to bumbling P.I. Mars Candiotti to rescue them. Wannabe author Mars chronicles his quest in Jeffrey Hanlon's rom-com mystery Zither.

Guided by his magically prescient IHOP waitress, Mars strives to mitigate the shocking global consequences of the gazebo heist, even though he has no idea what the word mitigate means.

As Zither swallows its own tale, Mars finds it increasingly tricky to distinguish between real people and his rambunctious fictional characters. Zither becomes the romper room where his reality meets fantasy - and get frisky with each other.

Mars’ international odyssey leads to an explosive conclusion in Panama. Teevees around the world tune in to watch live coverage of “Carnage in the Canal”.

And amid the lunatic havoc that is Zither there is (of course!) an epic love story as Mars meets Marian, the brainy librarian he had dreamt of. Marian says his books are "slapstick existentialism with subjective reality couched in parable". (This is news to Mars). But is Marian real, or just another illusion in Zither World?

And in Mars’ klutzy (yet endearing) courtship of the enchanting Marian will he ever muster the nerve to ask her for a date???​

BUY THE BOOK: ~ Amazon UKAudible

I was born in a Southern California beach town.

My family moved to Northwest Oregon when I was 7. Or maybe when I was 8.

Had we stayed in the Beach Boys town, and knowing myself as I do now, I suspect I would have grown long hair, started a rock band, and been heavily into drugs. The rock band would probably have been pretty good. The rest of it, not so much. I’d likely have joined the ranks of those like Jim Morrison and Janis Joplin.

We moved to a mountaintop. The last five miles to get there were gravel. The final two miles were steep and to the end of the road.

That’s where we lived: the end of the road, 22 miles to the nearest town.

Our closest neighbor, about a mile down the road, was a hermit who lived in a shack. He had a goat. About once a month the goat would visit us. Then the hermit would show up to retrieve his goat. I think the goat liked us better than the hermit, which is why the goat kept showing up. Goats are funny animals. I think they aspire to be house pets.

And speaking of animals, we had cats. Lots and lots of cats. Because we were remote and at the end of the road, unkind people – and ‘unkind’ is the kindest description I can use here – would dump their unwanted cats on or near our property. The cats would find our house. We gave them Fancy Feast and our love, and in turn they loved us.

My childhood friends didn’t visit too often. That was at least partly because when they did show up my father would say something like this: “Great! We have a job that could use an extra hand. Won’t take more than five minutes.” Well, that five minutes usually turned into an hour or two – volunteer labor! – and that friend would seldom visit again.

So my favorite childhood playmate was a 2000 pound Hereford bull, a big boy with horns spanning three feet. I’d go out in the pasture and the bull would strike a pose not unlike what you’ve seen in the movies where the bull was ready to charge, head down, eyeing me. But he wasn’t going to charge me. He just wanted his forehead scratched. And so I would scratch his forehead. He liked that, shaking his head every so often to show his approval. Then we’d elevate to a game that the bull might have called ‘Let’s see how far we can toss this little kid!’ and I’d place my right hip against his massive head and he’d toss me into the air like a sack of flour. Over and over, farther and farther, higher and higher. I could have done that for hours – I can fly! – but after a few tosses the bull would grow bored with the game and wander off. Probably to chase some cute heifers.

The nearest library was 30 miles away, and we ventured there often. It was a majestic old building, and the Grand Room had books on all four walls with reading chairs in the center. But that was not where I wanted to be. I figured all those books were popular books or books I was supposed to read. I wanted something different, so I would enter the room with a small sign that said ‘Stacks’. It was row after narrow row after row of books, floor to ceiling, dimly lit, dusty. It was like entering a cave. Filled with treasures!
It was in those Stacks that I discovered the likes of Kerouac and Heller and Huxley and Fowles and Steinbeck and Ellison and Bradbury and Hemingway and many many others.

As Stephen King said, “Books are a uniquely portable magic.”

And those, each in their own way, was the inspiration for the first book I wrote at the age of eight or nine: ‘Pond Scum’.

It was illustrated.
Jeffrey currently lives at an undisclosed location on the shores of the Caribbean where he spends his days in shorts and sandals making up stories.

He has a pet goat.

connect with the author: website 


Sep 27 – Working Mommy Journal – book spotlight
Sep 27 - Adventurous Jessy – book spotlight
Sep 28 – Rockin' Book Reviews – book spotlight / guest post
Sep 29 – Literary Flits – book spotlight
Sep 29 - Stephanie Jane - book spotlight
Sep 30 – Pick a Good Book – book spotlight / guest post
Oct 1 – Kam's Place – book spotlight
Oct 4 – Cover Lover Book Review – book spotlight
Oct 4 - Viviana MacKade – book spotlight / guest post
Oct 5 – Book Corner News and Reviews – book spotlight / guest post
Oct 6 – Gina Rae Mitchell – book spotlight / author interview
Oct 6 – fundinmental – book spotlight
Oct 7 – Locks, Hooks and Books – book spotlight
Oct 8 – Lisa's Reading – book spotlight
Oct 11 – Splashes of Joy – book spotlight / guest post
Oct 12 – Celticlady's Reviews – book spotlight / guest post
Oct 13 – Laura's Interests – book spotlight
Oct 13 - Sefina Hawke Books – book spotlight
Oct 14 – @twilight_reader – book spotlight
Oct 14 - Books for Books – book spotlight
Oct 15 – Jazzy Book Reviews – book spotlight / author interview

Friday, 24 September 2021

Veggie Parcel Pies - with step-by-step recipe pics

These Veggie Parcel Pies came about through my wanting to make myself a vegan pasty-style filling, but without that thick ridge crust. As you can see in this first picture, I had some getting-tired vegetables that needed a disguising recipe!

Ingredients (made 2 parcels)
1/4 onion, diced
1 small garlic clove, diced
2 Jersey Royals new potatoes, diced
1 carrot, diced
3 cabbage wedges, diced
2 tbsp rapeseed oil
1 vegetable stock cube
Pinch of fennel seeds
2 tbsp Clearspring dried soya mince
1 scant tbsp red Bisto gravy granules
1 tsp mixed herbs
1 tsp nutritional yeast
250g Jus-Rol shortcrust pastry
a little flour for dusting
1 tbsp soya milk

I started by dicing all the veg into approximately 1/2cm cubes (the garlic pieces were much smaller) and putting it all in a mixing bowl.

I crumbled in half the stock cube, then added the rapeseed oil and the pinch of fennel seeds, tumbling the veggies in it until they were all coated.

I baked the veggies at about 190c in our mini electric oven for half an hour until the chunks were softening and starting to colour around the edges.

While the veg cooked, I put the dried soya mince into the mixing bowl together with the other half of the stock cube, also crumbled, and added just enough boiling water to cover it all. I let the mince soak for 10 minutes until it had all softened and swelled up a little. Then I added the Bisto, mixed herbs and nutritional yeast.

I transferred the mince to a small saucepan, simmering it for a few minutes to both dissolve the gravy granules and to evaporate off excess water. I wanted the mince to be juicy, but not with so much water that it would make the pastry soggy.

When the veggies and mince had both cooled down, I cut two quarters from the pastry block and rolled each out into a square of maybe 25cm across. I spooned 3 tbsp of veggies diagonally across each square (6 tbsp in all), then topped them with 2 tbsp of mince to each square (4 tbsp total). This used up all the mince and about 2/3 of the vegetables.

I folded in the pastry corners at each end of the veg-mince lines first, then dabbed those with a little soya milk before folding the other sides in like an envelope.

I placed the two parcels, folded sides down, on a baking paper lined baking tray, and brushed their tops with a little more soya milk. Finally I pierced the tops of each parcel to allow cooking steam to escape.

I gave our little Netta oven a couple of minutes to preheat to 200c. We're still not really sure if it needs preheating because it seems to get up to temperature very quickly. I baked the Veggie Parcel Pies at 200c for 10 minutes, then turned the oven down to 180c for a further 20 minutes until the pastry was a lovely golden brown colour.

I served myself one Veggie Parcel Pie hot with a side of baked beans, and had the other cold for lunch the next day accompanied by a salad of the leftover veg mixed with vegan mayonnaise. Delicious both ways!

Tuesday, 21 September 2021

My favourite Vegan Halloween Candles @ Etsy

 I know it's still September, but leaves are falling, evenings are drawing in and I'm starting to get excited for Halloween! I've already been browsing small shops on Etsy to see what's available because leaving things until the last minute this year will probably mean no stock left or deliveries arriving too late.

Here's my favourite Halloween Candles ...

by Ember Candle Co

by Cosy Art London

by Waxy Wix

by Manchester Candles

by Meltrusion Candles

by Vegan Bunny Co

by Common Sense London

by Poison Paradise Scent

by Candles Bany

by Siena Blue Handmade

Please note that all links in this post are affiliate links so, should you click through and make a purchase, I would receive a small commission from Etsy.

Happy Halloween!

Sunday, 19 September 2021

Making pâté from foraged hazelnuts

We're lucky to have timed our French visit this year to perfectly coincide with hazelnut season and there must be at least a dozen fruiting shrubs all within easy walking distance of our static caravan, all with an excellent harvest. No one else seems to be interested in gathering up the nuts either so the local red squirrels and I have them pretty much to ourselves. Remembering Robin Wall Kimmerer's Braiding Sweetgrass advice, I'm careful not to be too greedy so am only gathering what we can eat within the next few days, rather than setting up stores for winter. The shops over here have plenty of good food on the shelves which is a relief after the past couple of months in England!

You might have spotted in the photo above that I'm using a combination garlic press - olive stoner to crack the hazelnut shells. It's the garlic press functionality that works a treat for this. I know I could buy a dedicated nutcracker for the task and have considered this, but why clutter up the kitchen drawers with more utensils when we already have something to do this job?

After shelling a bowlful of hazelnuts, I was left with about 100g of fresh kernels which I toasted in a medium-hot, dry frying pan for about ten minutes. It's really important to keep the nuts moving in the pan once they start to become fragrant. I wanted crisped golden hazelnuts, not blackened, burned ones which would have had a very different flavour. I didn't bother with the toasting stage last autumn because I figured it was too much extra faff for no reward, but having tried it once this year I am now a convert and have toasted all the nuts I collected prior to using them. I now think that the difference in flavour really does warrant the time spent.

While the frying pan was still warm, I finely diced half an onion and gently fried it in a tbsp of rapeseed oil with a pinch of celery salt until it was translucent and very soft.

Once the hazelnuts were toasted and cooled, I poured them into my mini chopper, blitzing them for about forty seconds until they were minced into fairly fine particles. If you have a proper food processor you could continue blitzing until the nuts release their oils and resemble a paste - hazelnut butter. I added the cooked onion to the blitzed hazelnuts, chopping them together for about twenty seconds.

Removing the blitzed nuts-and-onion to a mixing bowl, I added 1/2 tsp each of salt, freshly ground black pepper, and garlic granules, 1 tbsp of nutritional yeast, 4 tbsp of vegan mayonnaise and 2 tbsp of tomato puree. I used Follow Your Heart Vegenaise because I had a jar that needed finishing up. After taste testing the mixture and adjusting the seasoning to suit my preferences, I scraped my finished hazelnut pâté into an airtight tub and refrigerated it overnight to allow the flavours to infuse and the texture to firm up. I planned to just serve myself the pâté straight from the tub, but if you wanted to make yours more glamorous you could put it into a greased bowl or mould to set, turning it out onto a decorative plate for the table.

I thoroughly enjoyed my hazelnut pâté served on Ryvita crackers for a lunch and also on slices of freshly baked pain complet bread from the local boulangerie. The batch lasted for three good lunches and I also used about a quarter of it stirred into homemade tomato sauce to make Hazelnut Bolognese for a quick weeknight dinner. It's a versatile pâté!

See more of my vegan recipes on my Ko-Fi page

Thursday, 16 September 2021

My DIY Tofu Press craft project

I've long wanted a proper wooden Tofu Press rather than relying on my previous system of wrapping the block in swathes of kitchen roll with something heavy balanced on top. That method is not only wasteful on kitchen roll paper, but I also discovered that tofu rarely compresses evenly - and stacked china plates don't bounce. Oops!

My DIY Tofu Press started with two sycamore wood rectangles, kindly cut and drilled for me by my friend David Dyke @ Luthiers Supplies. David is something of a wood guru so I took onboard his recommendation of sycamore as the best wood to use for the project. I had originally thought I wanted paduak due to the beauty of eatroot's elegant tofu presses for sale on Etsy. However David championed sycamore for food preparation purposes and I already have a great pig-shaped chopping board in the same wood (a gift from the same source) which the press would match nicely.

The two wood rectangles were each drilled with 4x 5mm holes and I managed to buy 4 5x100mm bolts, together with matching wingnuts at C C Clements, a wonderful traditional ironmongers in Wymondham, Norfolk. It must have taken the helpful assistant a good 10 minutes to trial various options until we found exactly what the project needed, and the hardware still only cost £3.20!

Having now got all the parts together, I then set about refining the wood. My partner keeps a few sandpapers in his toolbox in our campervan so I was able to find one suitable to rub down the sycamore. I took everything apart, sanded all the rough edges smooth and gave the angles a bit of a curve. I also tried to sand inside the bolt holes by rolling the sandpaper into tubes but this didn't work so well.

I don't know how well you can see the colour difference in this photo. My little HTC phone is now eight years old so its camera struggles! I lightly rubbed the sycamore rectangle on the right with rapeseed oil - the better of the two food grade oils we already had. I repeated this a couple more times on both pieces of wood before my project was put to use as the oil soaked in really quickly. I think, over time, oiling will give the wood a nice honey colour too.

I was so pleased with how the press worked on its first use. I actually position it slanting, on its end, across a deep plate so only one corner of the press stands in the drained liquid. I hope alternating the corners will keep my press going for many years. I did notice, after the first use, that the screw holes appeared to shrink a little, resulting in needing to completely unscrew and rescrew each long screw in order to disassemble and reassemble the press. This was even more of a faff to do than to type. We decided the best thing would be to slightly enlarge the screw holes with a handheld drill so now the wood slides without catching and only the wing nuts use the screw threads.

So here is my finished project. A Tofu Press! Obviously this pic is a mockup - I know I need to remove the tofu from its box first (and, despite what Tofoo claim, I think their tofu does need a half hour's pressing before use). I'm delighted with it and look forward to lots more easy and delicious tofu meals!

Wednesday, 15 September 2021

Seitan making - my first attempt

Seitan is made of wheat gluten and it's a kind of 'Marmite' addition to a vegan cook's repertoire. We seem to love it or hate it! Obviously it's not good for coeliacs to eat, but as I'm fortunate not to suffer in that regard, I wanted to explore its potential. I'd not had much success with premade commercial Seitan in the past - too dry & bland - so wondered if making it myself might be the answer ... ?

I didn't go all out from scratch for this first attempt, instead choosing a couple of Praise Seitan UK kits from Etsy. I bought Italian Sausage flavour and Chicken Tikka flavour packs for £5 each and only needed 1/2 of one kit to make enough seitan for two good portions.

The seitan kit is a dry powder mix of wheat gluten, herbs and spices. I measured out 1/2 the pack and mixed it with cold water (as per the pack instructions). The powder turned into a pliable dough which I kneaded for a few minutes, feeling its consistency becoming more elastic and denser as I did so. It's quite a strange texture. Kind of like bread dough, but more springy. (I actually made 2 batches before writing this up. The kit contained a pouch of Piri Piri seasoning which should have been added later in the process. For my 1st attempt I followed instructions, but 2nd time around I added the Piri Piri with the powder mix which I felt worked better.)

After a few minutes kneading and five minutes rest (for the seitan and me!), I cut the seitan into three even(ish) pieces and rolled them to sausage shapes with my hands. The seitan was a little sticky and I found it helpful to quickly rinse my hands in cool water before starting. The seitan stuck less to wet skin.

The next step was to wrap each sausage in foil (shiny side inwards). They need to be wrapped securely enough that steam won't get in, but loosely enough that each sausage can nearly double in size. My new-to-me rice cooker has a steamer basket so it nicely doubles up as a small steamer. You could also use a colander over a saucepan of boiling water. Either way, the foil-wrapped sausages needed to steam for about 30 minutes.

A cautionary tip: Don't be too eager to unwrap the foil straight from steaming. Steam is hot! You can see the top sausage in this picture is a bit wonky. This is because I wrapped it too tightly in not-enough foil so it unwrapped itself during steaming. It wasn't ruined, but the texture was a little dry on the side that had opened. Second time around I made four sausages and steamed them wrapped in pairs which was successful. I left the sausages to cool and popped them in the fridge overnight as this helps their flavour to develop. You could go straight ahead to the next step though.

Next day, shortly before dinner time, I took the sausages out of the fridge and rolled them in the Piri Piri seasoning I mentioned earlier. This didn't really work because there was nothing for the spice blend to adhere to. Most of it ended up in the frying oil so I filled out the pan with strips of fresh, local purple sprouting broccoli and had Piri Piri broccoli instead (which was nice enough!) I fried the seitan sausages in a little rapeseed oil over a medium-low heat for about ten minutes, turning them frequently. They were quite large and densely textured so it took them a while to get piping hot all the way through and I didn't want the outsides to burn in the meantime.

Two sausages turned out to be plenty, especially as I served them up with purple sprouting broccoli, new potatoes and a dollop of vegan mayonnaise. The sausages looked pretty good and had a nice aroma. They also had a pleasant herby flavour but, I admit, after all that effort I was a bit disappointed by their texture. I'm used to juicy Cumberland or Lincolnshire-style vegan sausages and these seitan ones were too dry by comparison. My meal was nice enough, but it wasn't the earth-stopping triumph I had hoped for. (The story doesn't end with this meal though!)

Spot the difference with this seitan sausage serving suggestion? This meal is made with the second seitan batch. After the overnight refrigeration stage, I sliced two sausages into 1/2cm thick discs and cooked them in a rich tomato pasta sauce. I boiled up spaghetti separately and then mixed the pasta with the tomato sauce and sausage slices, topping my dish with a scattering of mixed seeds. What a difference this cooking method made! The seitan was now juicy and just-a-little chewy which provided a nice texture combination against the soft pasta and the crunchy seeds. Its flavour really complemented the tomato sauce. Seitan sausage pasta was the flavourful triumph for which I had hoped!

Wednesday, 1 September 2021

Art of Time: A Mother-Daughter Sprezzatura on the Spirit of Time - Martine Terese / Martina Franca + #Giveaway

Join Us for This Tour from  August 16 to September 3
Book Details:
Book Title:  The Art of Time: A Mother-Daughter Sprezzatura on the Spirit of Time by Martine Therese & Martina Franca
Category:  Adult Fiction 18+
GenreArt, Poetry
Publisher:  The Twenty-Sixth Residence, 76 pages
Release Date: July 2021

Tour dates: August 16 to September 3
Content Rating:  G.
Book Description:
In The Art of Time: A Mother-Daughter Sprezzatura on the Spirit of Time, Martine Therese and her daughter, Martina Franca, invite you into a lush world where time has no limits. Consisting of paintings, meditations and poetry, The Art of Time merges maternal & youthful wisdom into a one-of-a-kind artistic showcase with a powerful message: humanity's experience can be enhanced by developing our minds into sensual thought.

A gorgeous book to be treasured by everyone from art connoisseurs to children, The Art of Time offers concepts and images that introduce readers to a new—and wonderful—realm of being.
Buy the Book / Amazon UK

Meet the Authors: 

Martine Therese was a practicing Certified Public Accountant when she became pregnant with her daughter, Martina Franca. She decided to leave her accounting job and focus on her daughter instead. The transition, while “brutal,” completely transformed Martine’s life, and opened up a whole new world of possibility.

For Martine, who has been writing poetry all her life, motherhood expanded her creativity, and she finally felt the courage to bring her work to the world. Martine and her daughter discovered a love for painting, and their artwork, combined with Martine’s poetry, form the basis of The Art of Time; A Mother-Daughter Sprezzatura on the Spirit of Time. The book is a token of their shared loves and talents.

Martine and Martina Franca are putting together a follow-up collection on the topic of what it means to be human, exploring the theme of building the potential of humanity. Martina Franca embraces her maternal side on a daily basis, be it with caring for her baby dolls or her puppy, Marcello. She gets a kick out of tailgating with Mom and watching people's reactions, and playing practical jokes like hiding Daddy's shampoo bottle, and she loves having conversations. She regularly chills out with Mom during yoga in their special "rainbow room," a room just for the two of them to recharge. On sunny days, gorgeous rainbows fill the wall of the Rainbow Room, and Martina and Mom bask in those colors—which is why Martina loves infusing her art with rainbows.

Connect with the Authors:  Facebook ~Instagram
Tour Schedule:  

Aug 16 – Working Mommy Journal – book spotlight / giveaway
Aug 17 – Splashes of Joy – book spotlight / giveaway
Aug 17 - Rockin' Book Reviews – book spotlight / giveaway
Aug 18 – Cheryl's Book Nook – book spotlight / giveaway
Aug 19 – Cover Lover Book Review – book spotlight / giveaway
Aug 19 - Book Corner News and Reviews – book spotlight / giveaway
Aug 20 – Kam's Place – book spotlight
Aug 23 – Westveil Publishing – book spotlight / giveaway
Aug 24 – Gina Rae Mitchell – book spotlight / giveaway
Aug 25 – Laura's Interests – book spotlight / giveaway
Aug 25 - Sefina Hawke's Book – book spotlight
Aug 26 – Jazzy Book Reviews – book spotlight / giveaway
Aug 27 – Books for Books – book spotlight
Aug 30 – Gold Dust Editing & Book Reviews – book spotlight / giveaway
Aug 31 – Locks, Hooks and Books – book spotlight / giveaway
Sep 1 – Literary Flits – book spotlight / giveaway
Sep 1 - Stephanie Jane – book spotlight / giveaway
Sep 2 – Lisa Everyday Reads – book spotlight / giveaway
Sep 2 - A Mamas Corner of the World – book spotlight / giveaway
Sep 3 – Lisa's Reading – book spotlight / giveaway

Enter the Giveaway:

Win a $25 Amazon gift card. Open to the USA only until the 10th September.

THE ART OF TIME Book Tour Giveaway